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Syria safe zones hit by clashes on first day

Reports of bombing in Hama province as Russian-led agreement intended to stop conflict between government and rebel powers comes into force

Syrian government powers and rebels clashed in the north-western state of Hama on Friday shortly after a Russian-led deal to establish safe zones went into effect, a monitor and a rebel official said.

The zones, agreed to by Russia, Turkey and Iran, takes effect at midnight on Friday. The plans details will be worked out in the course of the coming few weeks but the zones appear intended to halt conflict in specific areas between government powers and rebels, and was likely to be policed by foreign troops.

Fighter planes fired at the rebel-held village of al-Zalakiyat and nearby positions in the Hama countryside, where the combatants exchanged shell, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based war monitoring group announced government powers shelled the nearby townships of Kafr Zita and Latamneh. There was no immediate commentary from the Syrian army.

The de-escalation area are the latest international attempt to reduce violence in the war-ravaged country, and represent the first great efforts to see armed foreign monitors on the ground in Syria.

The United States is not party to the agreement and the Syrian rivals have not signed up to the deal. The armed opposition was highly critical of project proposals, saying it lacks legitimacy.

Russian officials said it would be at least a few months before details were worked out and the safe areas established.

The Syrian government supported the de-escalation plan but said it would continue to fight what it worded terrorist groups. Rebels repudiated the dealand said they would not recognise Iran as a guarantor of any ceasefire.

Mohammed Rasheed, a spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr rebel group based in Hama, confirmed that fighting had broken out after midnight.

With the help of Russia and Iranian-backed militias, the Syrian government has gained the military upper hand in the six-year conflict. The wide-ranging array of rebel groups include some supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

The primary Syrian opposition figure, the HNC, which includes political and armed groups, condemned the plan earlier as vague. The High-pitched Negotiations Committee said the deal was concluded without the Syrian people and absence the minimum basics of legitimacy.

Iran and Turkey agreed on Thursday to a Russian recommendation for de-escalation zones in Syria but the memo the three guarantors signed has not been made publicly available, leaving its details unclear.

In the tangled mess that constitutes Syrias battlegrounds there is a lot that can go wrong with the plan, which emerged from a summit in Kazakhstan.

There is no clear mechanism to resolve conflict and misdemeanours, like most other previous bargains struck by benefactors of the warring sides.

A potential complication to implementing the plan is the crowded airspace over Syria. The deal calls for all aircraft to be banned from winging over the safe zones. Syrian, Russian, Turkish and US-led alliance aircraft all operate in Syria.

It is not yet clear how the brand-new plan would affect flightpaths of US-led alliance warplanes duelling Islamic State militants and other radical the organizations and whether the American air force would abide by a diminished breath space.

Russia and Iran two of the plans three patrons are key allies of President Bashar Assads government and both are viewed as foreign occupation forces by his opposings. Rebels fighting to topple Assad are infuriated by Irans persona in the deal and blame the Tehran for fuelling the sectarian nature of Syrias conflict , now in its seventh year.

Turkey, the third patron, is a major backer of opposition factions and has furthermore mailed troops into northern Syria, gleaning the ire of Assad and his government.

Troops from the three countries are expected to secure four safe zones. An official with Russias military general staff announced other countries is finally have a role in enforcing them.

Read more: http :// www.theguardian.com/ us

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